Racism & Classism

I have a lot of opinions on race and class, and I don’t know that any of them are solid, but I do think that both issues are the core America’s problems. There is a lot to say about both and other people can write in detail about both better than I can, so I won’t. But I will share a few observations from today.

Observation one. There is a “check’s cashed today” / money lending / whatever place just down the street from me. I haven’t really noticed it until today. As I passed I saw posters along all three walls, I just glanced but one thing stuck out to me, each poster had one person on it and only one poster had a white person. What’s more the other people were holding shopping bags and money and checks, while the young white man was holding a book. There’s a message there. But I’m not blaming the advertisers, I think that would be too easy. I am wondering what that says about the state of race and class in America. Don’t believe me? Look at a website from one of those companies like The Money Tree or at EZPaydayCash.com, go ahead… find the white person.

Observation two. I caught the end of Bill Maher’s show Real Time with Bill Maher on HBO (a perk of Travis & Monica’s hospitality). One topic was about immigrants learning English. There was the usual arguments pro and con. Pro English shared the usual boring and wrong headed ideas like “my parent’s had to learn and they did” and “it is important and steals valuable resources from our country to cater to others.” The con argument of course was the well thought out “it’s racist.” (side note: it was interesting was how angry the reaction against calling it racist was, when clearly the line is blurry so there is no need for righteous indignation) What was more interesting to me was that this wasn’t approached at all from a class perspective. Whether or not it is racist to decide everyone must speak English, it is certainly classist. The fact is that if you are in this country, don’t speak English, and are poor, English is not an option. There isn’t enough time in the day, not to mention the money that language lessons cost, not to mention the time and energy it takes. What’s more, if you are raising a family you need to spend time with them and save money for children’s college because it is getting more and more expensive while scholarships and grants are getting harder to get. Even if you are middle class you might not have the luxuries of time and money, both of which are needed to learn a new language. The odds are already against the middle and lower class, why make things harder? And further, what are the penalties for not learning English? No job? That doesn’t seem like it would solve anything does it?

I don’t think that Americans think about race in the right way, anyone who’s looked and thought about what they’ve seen can tell you it isn’t as polar as people want to make it. And I know that most Americans don’t think about class, period. I am not saying that I have answers, I don’t, but I think it is time we all started to think about and talk about both issues again. Especially class and what it means to all of us.


3 thoughts on “Racism & Classism

  1. Natalie L. says:

    I agree with you completely. Although I’m an immigrant, I’m also a member of the upper middle class, so that puts me in a strange position. I think it’s disgusting the way some people demand that all immigrant learn English. I don’t know much about how it works in other countries, but I doubt that if you moved to, say, India, you would be forced to learn one of several languages used there. In fact, if you travel abroad, you will find that most countries, even whole continents, go out of their way to use English on menus, street signs, receipts, etc. Also, a person living in another non-English speaking country who speaks English is praised and has a greater chance of succeeding in the business market. So, all over the world people are learning English, but we can’t stand to have some people speak another language in our country. It doesn’t’ make sense not to make accommodations for non-English speakers. I feel very close to all immigrants that come into the U.S. I also realize that I have a huge advantage because my parents are both college educated white people. To me, there is no difference between my family, that got on plane and flew to America, and a family that illegally crossed the border. It is classist/racist to say that these Jews from Russia have the right to come into America and have a good life, but no, these Mexicans, these Iraqis, these dark people, have not right to provide a better life for their families. Because as much as it sucks, America can be a kind a great place to live–I learned this firsthand.

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